John Kerry’s diplomatic traveling circus
Any list of our nation’s Secretaries of State includes a who’s who of an America coming into its own: Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, John Quincy Adams.
Secretary of state was frequently a springboard to the presidency. Even if they didn’t land the top job, they were contenders for it. The best of them helped bolster America’s place in the world without drawing our country into unnecessary and costly conflicts.
Then there’s John Kerry.
Earlier this month, Kerry broke the record for the most miles flown by any secretary of state, clocking in at 1.06 million miles, beating out Condoleezza Rice. Since then, he visited Iraq, Afghanistan, Japan, and he just embarked on another trip to Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
Yet many countries would be better off if he’d have just stayed home. Kerry may not have been the most ineffectual secretary of state we’ve ever had, or the most long-winded, or the most wrong-headed, but he is large measures of all of those things.
Kerry admitted recently that a bombing in Israel “bears the hallmarks” of a terrorist attack. But he went on to lecture that Israelis can’t “just keep condemning the other side” and that the bombing only “underscore(s) the importance of ending this conflict so the Israelis and Palestinians can once and for all live side by side in peace in security. And you can rest assured we know the dynamic we need to make that happen.”
Our secretary of state visited the Hiroshima memorial in Japan, because that can of worms needed reopening, apparently. He didn’t, per breathless press accounts, make an “apology” on behalf of America for dropping the bomb, but did assure the Japanese that President Barack Obama endorses the goal of a nuclear free world. North Korea may beg to differ.
He also recently responded, angrily though ineffectually, when a Russian plane buzzed an American warship in the Baltic Sea. He said “this kind of behavior ... is reckless. It is provocative. It is dangerous. And under the rules of engagement, that could have been a shoot-down.”
And that’s just in the last few weeks.
Kerry’s undiplomatic words for Russia may have to do with the fact that Vladimir Putin has been wrong-footing him for years. When Russia invaded Ukraine, Kerry said all options were on the table for the U.S. government, including invasion. He eventually settled for sanctions. Even those may go away soon.
On Syria, Kerry and Obama have been fighting for a two front war, against ISIS and against Assad. Russia thinks that approach is crazy. It sent bombers to shore up Assad and weaken ISIS.
That’s par for the course for Kerry. He even managed to make initiatives that held promise worse. He negotiated a deal with Iran and structured it in such a way as to get around Congressional approval, thus turning it into an instant gotcha campaign issue domestically.
To massage regional fears on the Iran deal, the Obama administration agreed to sell more arms to the Saudis and to back their dirty war in Yemen, which has resulted in starving Yemenis and a resurgent al-Qaida in the region. You may have heard of this group. It had something to do with 9/11.
The next secretary of state should be the anti-Kerry. Instead of talking all the time, listen. Instead of jet-setting around the world inserting the U.S. into every possible conflict, why not stay home, save the taxpayers considerable travel money, and let the nations come to us?
World leaders should find that a whole lot less annoying than the current diplomatic traveling circus.
Jeremy Lott is a senior fellow at the American Security Initiative Foundation.